The Gap Theory
I’m sure most Christians are familiar with the debate about whether Jesus Christ will return for His church before, during or after the seven years of tribulation. These three interpretations are referred to as the “pre-trib”, “mid-trib” and the “post-trib” views. For years, yours truly got caught up in this debate. During this entire period I never once asked the question “does the Bible teach that Daniel chapter 27 refers to a future seven-year period of tribulation” in the first place?
Well, guess what I found? Or should I say what I didn’t find? What I haven’t found is any specific Bible text that predicts a future seven-year tribulation period. Whether we are speaking of a “pre,” “mid” or “post” return of Christ for His church, the entire “theory” is based on an interpretation of one primary scripture, Daniel 9:27.
Here’s the Daniel 9:27 scripture:
Daniel 9:27 (KJV) – He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease…
Many modern Bible prophecy teachers take great liberties in interpreting Daniel 9:27, placing it’s fulfillment in our future. Please consider the following points:
* Many Christians have been taught that the “He” in Daniel 9:27 refers to “the Antichrist.” And by “the Antichrist” they are referring to some future world political leader who will be filled with Satan’s spirit and sit at the head of a one world government. Furthermore, this “Antichrist” will present himself as our savior in a yet to be built Temple in Jerusalem.
* This coming “Antichrist” will then make a treaty with the Jews for “one week”. In Bible prophecy, “one week” is seven (7) years. Further this “one week” will be the last “week” of the 70 week/490 year prophecy of Daniel. In other words seven years of Tribulation.
* In this view of prophecy in the middle of the Tribulation, Antichrist will cause the sacrifices of a rebuilt Jewish temple “to cease”.
So in this system of Bible prophecy Daniel 9:27 is applied to “the Antichrist”, a seven-year Tribulation (referred to as the “Great Tribulation”, and a rebuilt Jewish temple. However, the verse itself doesn’t say ANY of this. In fact, if you research this scripture and read some of the past commentaries you will find that countless, Bible scholars of the past applied Daniel 9:27 to Jesus Christ and not to “the Antichrist”. Understand? The “He” is Daniel 9:27 is NOT “the Antichrist” but Jesus Christ! But hey, don’t take my word for it! Let’s go to some of the well-known commentaries and see what they say.
What the Commentaries Say
Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary: “We have, in verses Dan 9:24-27, one of the most remarkable prophecies of Christ, of his coming and his salvation. It shows that the Jews are guilty of most obstinate unbelief, in expecting another Messiah, so long after the time expressly fixed for his coming. The seventy weeks mean a day for a year or 490 years. About the end of this period a sacrifice would be offered, making full atonement for sin, and bringing in everlasting righteousness for the complete justification of every believer. Then the Jews, in the crucifixion of Jesus, would commit that crime by which the measure of their guilt would be filled up, and troubles would come upon their nation.”
Adam Clark’s Commentary: “He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week,” that is seven years, verse 27. This confirmation of the covenant must take in the ministry of John the Baptist with that of our Lord, comprehending the term of seven years, during the whole of which he might be well said to confirm or ratify the new covenant with mankind.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary: Verse 27. he shall confirm the covenant—Christ. The confirmation of the covenant is assigned to Him also elsewhere. Isa 42:6, “I will give thee for a covenant of the people” (that is, He in whom the covenant between Israel and God is personally expressed); compare Lk 22:20, “The new testament in My blood”; Mal 3:1, “the angel of the covenant”; Jer 31:31-34, describes the Messianic covenant in full.
Daniel’s 70th Week – Past or Future?
What evidence do we have that Daniel’s 70th week doesn’t refer to a future Tribulation? And can we safely conclude that Daniel’s 70th week was fulfilled nearly two thousand years ago? Please consider the following points and then decide.
* Daniel prophesied that “seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city” (Dan 9:24). Doesn’t it make sense that “seventy weeks” would refer to seventy straight sequential weeks? Without any gaps or breaks? I don’t know one example in scripture of a prophetic time period starting, stopping and then starting again. All biblical references to time are consecutive.
* Shouldn’t the 70th week logically follow after the 69th week? If it doesn’t then how can anyone refer to it as the 70th week?
* It just doesn’t make sense to insert a 2,000 plus year gap between the 69th and 70th week. Think about it – there’s no gap between the first seven weeks and sixty-two weeks. What gives anyone the liberty to insert a gap between the 69th and 70th week? Isn’t that adding to scripture?
* Please read Daniel 9:27 again. It doesn’t say anything about a “tribulation,” a rebuilt, future Jewish temple, or “the Antichrist.” All of these ideas are read into this scripture. It’s all conjecture and speculation!
* I realize this won’t sell any books but Daniel 9:24-27’s entire focus is on the Messiah. The Messiah being “cut off” is a reference to Christ’s death on the cross. The reference to “the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary” refers to the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by Roman armies led by “Prince” Titus in A.D. 70. Rome was the world power of that day. Rome was truly a “one world government”. The Roman empire ruled the entire known world of that time. Roman General Titus led an army comprised of soldiers from many “nations” of that day. Not only was the temple destroyed but the entire city of Jerusalem. History books (Josephus, Eusebius, etc.) record that over 1.1 million Jews were put to death by Roman soldiers in a four month period. Thus the scriptures in Matt. 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 have been fulfilled.
* What about the statement “He shall confirm the covenant”? Paul said “the covenant was confirmed before by God in Christ” (Gal. 3:17). Jesus Christ came “to confirm the promises made to the fathers” (Rom. 15:8).
* The concept of a “covenant” is Messianic. It always applies to the Messiah and not to some future “Antichrist”. Jesus said that “He shall confirm the covenant with many.” In Matthew 26:28 Jesus said that “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.” Here Jesus was referring to the prophecy in Daniel 9:27.
* In Daniel 9:27 it says that “In the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease”. How was this fulfilled? After 3 1/2 years of ministry, Jesus Christ death put an end to all sacrifices in God’s sight. Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice. His last words on the cross were “It is finished”!
* “For the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate” (Dan. 9:27). It was an abomination for the apostate Jewish leaders to put God’ Son to death. By doing this, it ended their temple system. Jesus predicted this in Matthew chapters 23 and 24. “Your house is left to you desolate (Mat. 23: 38)”.
* The 70th week applied to the Jewish people (Dan. 9:24). Christ’s public ministry lasted 3 1/2 years during which His focus was “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mat. 10:6). Then for another 3 1/2 years after His resurrection, His disciples preached mostly to Jews (Acts 1-6). After the stoning of Stephen in A.D. 34, the gospel shifted to the Gentiles (Acts 13:46). This was exactly as prophesied.
What do the scriptures reveal?
Daniel 9:27 (KJV) – And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.
The weight of evidence is on the side of past fulfillment. The eight words I highlighted above in Daniel 9:27 find perfect fulfillment in Jesus Christ. They are also confirmed in Christian history. Most of the 1st century A.D. Jewish nation failed to receive its Messiah was because its scholars misinterpreted Daniel 9:27. They failed to acknowledge that Jesus Christ was the One, who would die in the midst of the 70th week just as Daniel the Prophet had predicted. It’s sad that today many Christians are still misapplying this vital scripture.
This “gap” between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel, if believed, has now been going on for nearly 2,000 years. Wow, that’s like taking 9 inches out of a 12-inch ruler. But once Daniel 9:27 is correctly understood the “seven-year tribulation” period disappears. It’s a fact – there’s not one scripture that teaches a “seven-year tribulation”.
It was none other than Jesus Christ that “confirmed the covenant” and caused the sacrifices “to cease.”